Expats moving to the UK are not always attracted by the bright lights of London and now research suggests that the best quality of life can actually be found in South Oxfordshire.

Improvements in the levels of wellbeing in the area means that it has topped the 2016 rural area quality of life survey from leading lender the Halifax, from tenth position last year.

Residents rate themselves as happy and content with a high level of life satisfaction and not a great deal of anxiety and they scored well in a number of the categories analysed, with health also being a significant factor.


Indeed, some 97% of those living in South Oxfordshire reported themselves to be in good health. Meanwhile, female life expectancy is also high, at an average age of 84.7 years, a full three years longer than males at 81.7 years.

Some 81% are classified as being employed, and those in a full time occupation typically enjoy high incomes, with weekly average earnings of £863. To top it all, the cost of living in South Oxfordshire is not much higher than in many other parts of Britain with an average house price that is 6.9 times the average annual pre-tax local income, only marginally higher than for the rest of the country at 6.8.

Chiltern in Buckinghamshire came in as the second most desirable place to live. The inhabitants scored well, with a high average female life expectancy of 86.7 years, and 97% reporting themselves to be in good health.

The employment rate is similar to South Oxfordshire at 80%, and those in full time occupation typically enjoy high incomes with weekly average earnings of £912, the highest amongst rural areas in this survey and 46% above the average for all rural areas.

Last year's winner, Rutland, is Britain's third most desirable rural place to live. Residents of the East Midlands location tend to be in good health, have a high employment rate, benefit from a low crime rate and enjoy a relatively good climate with less rainfall and more sunshine than the national average.

There were several big climbers in the top 20, with West Dorset rising 47 places to seventeenth, East Hampshire up 35 places to sixteenth and East Dorset moving from 47 in 2015 to twentieth in 2016.

"Having scored strongly across a wide range of economic, environmental and social factors, residents of South Oxfordshire can now lay claim to having the highest standard of living in rural Britain," said Craig McKinlay, Halifax mortgages director.

"Many of the towns in the top 20 are either within commuting distance to London or another major city. With South Oxfordshire particularly, the residents can enjoy the financial benefits of working in London and still have the rural lifestyle," he explained.

"Importantly having an exceptional quality of life does not necessarily come with added costs, as house prices relative to earnings in the area are not much different from the average for the country," he added.

On a regional basis the survey found that Southern England and the East Midlands offer the best rural quality of life The top 50 rural places to live in Britain are again dominated by the south east with 16 districts found in this region, followed by east of England, which claims 12 of the top 50 spots, the south west with 10, and East Midlands with seven.

Areas from outside the south in the top 50 besides Rutland include Hambleton in North Yorkshire at 18, Wychavon in the West Midlands at 24, Monmouthshire at 35, the Orkney Islands in Scotland at 46 and Ribble Valley in the North West at 49.

Southern areas tend to receive higher ratings for weekly earnings, the weather, health, and life expectancy. Whereas Northern areas score well on education in terms of grades and smaller class sizes, lower house prices in relation to earnings, and both lower traffic flows and population densities.